Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Granada - Part 2

Sunday 6 November

We had arrived in Granada late the previous evening, after our 6 days of hiking in the Alpujurra. We woke to cold, blue skies. Snow had fallen on the high Sierras overnight.

As seen from the Alhambra.

Frank had made an on-line booking with Granavision Excursions, for our tour of the Alhambra. Our driver promptly collected us from our hotel at 9 am. Five other tour members had to be collected from hotels on the outskirts of the city, which was an interesting bonus drive for us, especially with the views on the way to the main entrance, at the top of Sabika Hill. I had expected that we would have been walking up the steep incline from the old city.

At the main office of the company, we were quickly sorted into smaller language groups and provided with 'whisper sets' for uninterrupted listening to our tour guide, English speaking, Alberto. He was entertaining, extremely knowledgeable and easy to understand, during the comphrehensive 3 hour tour of this magnificent complex. Our ticket however, did allow us to spend the rest of the day exploring by ourselves. It didn't allow us to return to the palaces, because of the volumes of people wanting to visit them. In fact, because of the large numbers, our movement through the rooms was far quicker than I would have liked and it was near impossible to take photos without tourists in them.

The Alhambra takes its name from the Arabic 'al-qal'a al-hambra', meaning the Red Castle. It is part palace, part fort, part gardens and is World Heritage listed. It was built by the Nasrid Dynasty [1232 - 1492], the last Muslims to rule Spain.

From the moment we started walking down through the gardens to the main complex, my camera shutter was clicking constantly.

Passing through an arch in the Alhambra wall, we immediately saw the 16th-century, Church of Santa Maria de la Alhambra, which was built on the site of the Palace Mosque of the Nasrids.

Adjacent was the massive Palace of Charles V. [christian] This building was commenced in 1527, to provide a permanent residence befitting an emperor, but was never completed. The roof was added in the late 20th-century. The palace is a 17m high, 63 m square, that has a dramatic inner circular patio or courtyard.

The bride's presence, made for a much better photo, than I would have otherwise got.

From here we made our way to the entrance of the Comares Palace.
Views along the way.

And these beautiful mosaic footpaths.

We entered via the Mexuar, used as a council chamber and antechamber for audiences with the emir.
We were immediately stunned by the beauty and complexity of the decoration of these vast rooms - geometric tile dadoes, carved stucco panels and wood panelled ceilings. The tessalated tiles contain nearly all of the 17 mathematically possible wallpaper groups. Even the stucco is based on geometric arrangement.
 [wallpaper groups are two-dimensional symmetry]  

Continuing on to the Comares Palace, we passed through the Gilded Room and a series of passageways and rooms, with high ceilings and spectacular decoration.

Gilded Room ceiling.

Courtyard of the Gilded [Golden] Room.

We now entered the Comares Palace, the private residence of the ruler, built around the Patio of Myrtles, with its rectangular reflecting pool.

Inside the Comares Hall.
Here the emirs negotiated with the Christian emisaries, at the end of their rule. The domed marquetry ceiling contains 8000 cedar wood pieces in a pattern of stars, representing the 7 heavens of Islam.

The Comares Hall led into the Hall of the Ambassadors - the throne room built in 1333. 
Its walls were lavishly decorated with intricate geometric patterned tiles and the other surfaces were of carved stucco motifs in bands of incredible patterns and calligraphy.

Continuing on, we entered the Palace of the Lions with its amazing Courtyard of the Lions -  built in the 14th-century. Its central fountain of a marble basin, supported on the backs of 12 carved stone lions, situated at the intersection of 2 water channels, was just magnificent. Alberto explained how important water and design was to the Moors. He said the Koran repeats the idea, that 'heaven is a garden with running water'. Here in the Courtyard of the Lions and throughout the Alhambra, you can see how the Moors have attempted to create heaven on earth.

I only wish my photos lived up to its beauty.

Entrance to the courtyard.

Entrance panelling

One of the rooms off the courtyard is the Hall of the Abencerrajes. Its 'stalactite' vaulted ceiling is an amazing feat. It is believed that the last Sultan of Granada, invited all the chiefs of that line to a banquet here and then had them massacred.

Another hall is the Hall of the Two Sisters, with a similar style ceiling.

We exited the palace complex through Daraxa's Mirador, with views to its patio garden, growing cypress, acacias, orange trees and box brushes.

Our tour now gave us the opportunity to appreciate the gardening expertise of the Moors, as we made our way to the Generalife - a soothing garden of pathways, patios, fountains, tall trees, vegetable terraces and flowers of every colour.
We passed through a column of hedged cypress to El Partal, the remains of the residence of Sultan Yusuf III. Again water played a part in its design.

At the north end of the gardens was the emir's white washed summer palace, looking down over the Darro River.

Photos of the gardens will be in my next post.

It was time to thank Alfredo for his excellent guidance through the palaces. We found lunch and then kept exploring.

At the city end of the Alhambra is the Alcazaba or fortress, the oldest part of the Alhambra - barracks, dungeons, ramparts and towers.

Late in the afternoon we eventually exited the Alhambra via the Gate of Justice.

Elated but foot weary, we passed the '?' fountain,  [I've googled and googled but can't find a name] and walked down through the canopy of trees to the old city, relaxing to to the gurgling sound of yet another water channel, even though the descent was quite steep.

So many names to remember. I aplogise if I have misnamed any room, place, fountain or emir. I have spent a lot of time googling to get my facts right. 
The original beauty of the Alhambra was created by the Moors, but congratulations has to be given to the work of those restoring the complex to its former glory. Restoration of The Courtyard of the Lions was only commenced in 2011.

I hope you have enjoyed this visit to the Alhambra.
I would love to read your comment.


  1. Utterly fascinating and beautiful. Thank you for the lovely photos!
    Looking forward to reading your post about the gardens. :)

    1. It was. Such a shame we had to rush through.

  2. What an impressive place! I love all your photos of the details. My camera would be clicking nonstop.

    1. You would have been totally frustrated by the volume of people and the fact, they HAVE to have selfies in front of everything, take forever and if they remember, slowly walk away!

  3. Wow!! What an amazing place, so intricate and very beautiful. Thank you for all the photos. Just wonderful!

  4. Beautiful shots. I'd like to bottle some of that blue sky.

  5. Your photos DO it justice. Absolutely amazing place, such a variety of architecture and styles and all beautiful